Alexander Hamilton Papers
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Cabinet Meeting. Opinion Respecting the Measures to Be Taken Relative to a Sloop Fitted Out as a Privateer, 12 June 1793

Cabinet Meeting. Opinion Respecting the
Measures to Be Taken Relative to
a Sloop Fitted Out as a Privateer

[Philadelphia] June 12. 1793.

The President having required the opinions of the heads of the three departments on a letter from Governor Clinton of the 9th. inst.1 stating that he had taken possession of the sloop Polly, now called the Republican, which was arming, equipping & manning by French & other citizens to cruize against some of the belligerent powers, and desiring to know what further was to be done, and they having met & deliberated thereon, are unanimously of opinion, that Governor Clinton be desired to deliver over to the civil power the said vessel & her appurtenances, to be dealt with according to law: and that the Attorney of the US. for the district of New York be desired, to have such proceedings at law instituted as well concerning the sd vessel and her appurtenances, as against all the persons citizens or aliens participating in the armament or object thereof as he shall think will be most effectual for punishing the said offenders, & preventing the sd vessel & appurtenances from being applied to the destined purpose: and that if he shall be of opinion that no judiciary process will be sufficient to prevent such application of the vessel to the hostile purpose intended that then the Governor be desired to detain her by force till the further advice of the General government can be taken.

The President having also required the same opinions on the Memorial of the British minister of the 11th. inst.2 on the subject of the British brigantine Catherine captured by the French frigete the Embuscade within the limits of the protection of the US. as is said, and carried into the harbour of New York, they are of opinion unanimously, that the governor of N. York be desired to seize the said vessel in the first instance, and then deliver her over to the civil power, and that the Attorney of the US. for the district of New York be instructed to institute proceedings at law in the proper court for deciding whether the sd capture was made within the limits of the protection of the US. & for delivering her up to her owners if it be so decided: but that if it shall be found that no court may take cognisance of the sd question, then the said vessel to be detained by the Governor until the further orders of the general government can be had thereon.3

Th. Jefferson

H Knox

Alexander Hamilton

DS, in the handwriting of Thomas Jefferson, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress.

1Letterpress copy, Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress.

2An entry in JPP description begins “Journal of the Proceedings of the President,” George Washington Papers, Library of Congress. description ends for June 11, 1793, reads as follows: “The Secy of State sent me a memorial wh. he had recd from Mr [George] Hammond relative to the Capture of the Brigantine Catharine by the French Frigate Ambuscade on the 8th Inst. and respecting the Brig Morning Star which had been captured & carried into Charleston. Encloses deposition of sailors & a pilot respecting the Brig Catharine” (JPP description begins “Journal of the Proceedings of the President,” George Washington Papers, Library of Congress. description ends , 144). Hammond’s memorial reads as follows:

“The Undersigned, his Brittanic Majesty’s Minister Plenipotentiary to the United States, has the honor of submitting to the Secretary of State the annexed deposition; from which it appears that the British brigantine Catharine, James Drysdale Master bound from Jamaica to the Port of Philadelphia, was on Sunday last the 8th inst captured by the French frigate the Embuscade off Hereford at the distance of not more than two miles and a half from the state of New Jersey.

“The Undersigned can entertain no doubt that the executive government of the United states will consider the circumstances of this capture as an aggression on the territory and jurisdiction of the United States, and will consequently pursue such measures as to its wisdom may appear the most efficacious for procuring the immediate restitution of this vessel to its owners as soon as it shall arrive at New York (for which port is understood to have been sent as prize) or within any other harbour of the United States.

“The Undersigned ventures to hope that the annexed deposition will be regarded by the executive government of the United States as evidence sufficient to authenticate the fact of the capture and the circumstances by which it has been accompanied. When he is informed of the actual arrival of the brigantine Catharine, within any part of the United States, he will obtain the corroborating testimony of the master and pilot now on board of the vessel, which testimony he will not fail to transmit without delay to the Secretary of State.

“The Undersigned thinks it expedient to add that he has lately received information, on which he can depend, from Charleston, that the brig the Morning Star, which on the 9th of last month was condemned as legal prize by Mr [Michel Ange Bernard de] Mangourit the French Consul at that place, was taken by the French frigate the Embuscade (on the 15th of April) at the distance of not more than two miles from the bar of Charleston, and within sight of the town. The Undersigned is taking the proper measures to collect the proof of this fact, which, if substantiated will, added to the capture of the present vessel, and that of the Ship Grange within the bay of Delaware constitute the third instance of similar aggression on the territory and jurisdiction of the United States, that has been committed by the French frigate the Embuscade within the short period of two months.” (LS, Notes from the British Legation in the United States to the Department of State, Vol. I, October 26, 1791–August 15, 1794, National Archives.) The deposition mentioned by Hammond may also be found in the location cited above.

3The version of this cabinet meeting in JPP description begins “Journal of the Proceedings of the President,” George Washington Papers, Library of Congress. description ends reads as follows: “The Secy of State was directed to write to the Atty. of the district of New York on the Subject agreeably to said opinion—and the Secy of War to the Govr. of N York. The Memorial of Mr Hammond was also considered, and it was determined that the Dist Atty of N. York shd. be written to on this subject likewise, in the way stated in the opinions” (JPP description begins “Journal of the Proceedings of the President,” George Washington Papers, Library of Congress. description ends , 144–45).

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